Priscilla Hutt Williams is a garden historian with a varied background in fine gardening, sales, and business management. In 2001, she founded an organic landscape gardening company northwest of Boston called Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening and ran it for 22 years. Working with the Northeast Organic Farming Association and a group of colleagues, she co-authored the first organic landscape standards in the United States. Speaking engagements with the NOFA Organic Land Care Program, garden clubs, and historical societies forwarded her involvement in the industry. She is currently writing a book called Lowthorpe: Portrait of a School of Landscape Architecture and the Women Who Trained There.

Henry Hoover and student confer about a design on cover of the last Lowthorpe catalog

Coincidental Meetings Between Creative People Shaped Lowthorpe Students

It’s incredible how coincidental meetings between creative people like Fletcher Steele, Henry B. Hoover, and Mabel Choate resulted in memorable landscapes and influenced Lowthorpe students. Fletcher Steele This man was associated with Lowthorpe in multiple capacities from 1915-45.  As befitting a Harvard-trained landscape architect, he worked briefly for the Olmsted office.  He then established his…

Mrs. Low’s Scrapbook Highlights Farmerette Preparation at Lowthorpe

I’m intrigued by three yellowed clippings pasted on adjoining pages in Mrs. Low’s scrapbook that highlight farmerette preparation.  Dating from 1917, we see “Women to Study Farming Methods – Special Course to be Offered at Lowthorpe This Summer,” “Trained Women Needed on Farms – Mrs. Thayer Believes Emergency Will be Met in New England,” and…

June Border at Munstead Wood

Jekyll Influence Evident at Lowthorpe and in Work of Graduate Landscape Architects

The influence of Gertrude Jekyll, the opinionated but highly-respected doyenne of British garden design from the 1890s through the 1930s, is evident at Lowthorpe and in the work of its graduate landscape architects.  The Lowthorpe library contained eight of Jekyll’s books.  They are now housed at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which eventually…

Sunken garden with perennials and low boxwood hedges

Glass lantern slides key tool for student recruiting

Mrs. Cyrus Winslow Merrell (Nellie Dryden Merrell) was the President of Lowthorpe School for several years in the mid-1920s.  She was also a Garden Club of America member from Connecticut and wrote articles about the school for the GCA’s Bulletin.  Clubwomen at the time usually referred to themselves using their husbands’ names.  That organization organized…

Glass lantern slide of Mrs. John Nicholas Brown's rose garden, Newport

Glass lantern slides used extensively in Lowthorpe classrooms

Glass lantern slides were used extensively in Lowthorpe classrooms. Students learned plant identification, design principles, and basic garden history during slide lectures.  How bright and colorful the glass lantern slides must have seemed!  Some were labeled with the name of an estate or garden owner, while others were completely unlabeled. A glass lantern slide is…

Lilium superbum flower

Strong Lowthorpe Presence in House Beautiful magazine, June 1927

It’s so much fun to comb through the garden magazines of yesteryear.  The advertisements alone are priceless!  We can learn about an era simply by paging through an issue. The June 1927 House Beautiful caught my eye because it’s packed with writing by Lowthorpe School graduates and faculty.  The Colonial Revival style was “it” for…